May 11

Escarlata Maya

Summer is here, whether we like it or not.  And just to be clear, we don’t.

Fuck. This. Shit.

Really, the only sane thing to do is drink a lot of extremely tasty, refreshing cocktails.  This one certainly fits the bill… in fact it was hard not to drink myself into a coma with these while tweaking the recipe.

Escarlata Maya

  • 2 oz. Reposado Tequila (Siembra Azul)
  • 1 oz. Fresh Red Bell Pepper Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Agave Nectar
  • Habenero Tincture
  • Club Soda
  • 1/4 oz. Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal

Combine tequila, red pepper juice, lime, and agave in a shaker with ice and shake until very cold.  Strain into a highball glass over ice.  Add habenero tincture to taste (2-8 drops was our range) and stir just a bit. Top with a splash of club soda and float Crema de Mezcal on top.  Garnish with a spear of red pepper and a wheel of lime.

Habenero tincture is easy to make… cover dried habeneros (cut up to prevent floaters) with pure grain alcohol for a week or two and strain.  Be very, VERY careful with this stuff… treat it like a chemical weapon.  It will have a lot of heat but also the wonderful citrus flavor for which habeneros are known.

Oh my god, between this and the Swamp Cooler (and the Badminton Cup) I may be able to survive another fucking summer in Texas.  Give it a try, tweak it if you must, and let us know what you think.

May 11

Bobby Heugel’s Tequila Call to Arms

Bobby Heugel, founder of Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, cares a lot about Tequila. He has posted an informative, pointed and frightening menu for Cinco de Mayo on his blog. Go check it out, as well as the discussion in the comments section there and the article by Allison Cook that he links to.


A lot to think about and worry about, and maybe even get angry about.

Oct 10

Martini Thoughts

The martini is pretty much my favorite cocktail, and is almost always the drink I make when I get home from work and need a little help with my lifestyle.  Because several friends have, at various times, asked for my thoughts on what makes a perfect martini I thought I would hold forth with my favorite recipe as well as a suggestion for a martini that might appeal to people who are used to vodka cocktails and/or super-dry (very little vermouth, if any at all) martinis.

Dramnut’s Favorite Martini

  • 2 1/4 oz. Beefeater Gin
  • 3/4 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

Stir for a long time with lots of ice.  Strain into a well-chilled coupe/cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.  Double strain if you have lots of ice fragments.


Regan’s No. 6 or Angostura Orange Bitters can be substituted (and I often do) for a slightly different flavor and aroma.  Watch the quantity though, the dasher sizes on these bottles vary widely.  You may want to tweak the amount of bitters, in any case.

I also frequently switch out the orange bitters altogether for a couple of other kinds.  My favorites here are the Bitter Truth Celery and the Fee Brothers Whisky Barrel Aged.

Like I said, the Beefeater is my favorite for my everyday martini, but I do often try others.  Examples that I think work very well in these proportions are the Beefeater 24 (if you can get it) and Broker’s.

Training Wheels Martini

  • 2 1/2 oz. Bluecoat Gin
  • 1/2 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • 1 or 2 dashes Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

Stir for a long time with lots of ice.  Strain into a well-chilled coupe/cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.


You can leave the bitters out entirely if you (or your audience) don’t like them.  The western dry style gin, particularly the Bluecoat, tones down the juniper in favor of stronger citrus character which many people find an easier stepping stone to the more juniper-forward london dry and plymouth styles.  The lemon twist is also really key here.

Apr 10

Creme Yvette Tasting

This has been a hard post to write.  And I blame it, I do, for keeping me from posting to this blog on a regular basis ever since The Souse Report received a bottle of Creme Yvette and embarked on a tasting odyssey which led us… well… not quite where we expected to go.

I have to admit an almost ridiculous level of excitement and anticipation of the resurrection of Creme Yvette.  It is not every day that a defunct ingredient is pulled from the dusty pages of cocktail history and returned to us.  Creme Yvette, for me, had attained almost mythical status, and every time I consumed a Blue Moon or Aviation made with Creme de Violette I found myself dreaming of the day when I would be able to enjoy them restored to their former glory.

Creme Yvette was originally produced in America, starting in the late 1800s, by the Sheffield Company.  The rights and recipe were purchased in the early 1900s by Charles Jacquin et Cie., a company which was purchased in turn by Maurice Cooper following Prohibition.  Creme Yvette became defunct in 1969 but has now been resurrected by Robert Cooper of Cooper Spirits International, grandson of Maurice Cooper and the man who brought us St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, bless him.

Creme Yvette was, and is, a liqueur made primarily from violets, orange peel, honey, and berries.  In the time that it has been unavailable, forty years or so, its most common stand-in has been Creme de Violette.  We decided to compare the two liqueurs side by side, straight and in several classic cocktails.  The result was not quite what we expected.

First off was the direct comparison.  You can see the two participants in the photo above, Creme de Violette on the left, Creme Yvette on the right.  The first thing we all noticed was the difference in color.  Creme de Violette is purple, while Yvette is red.  Very red.  I was not expecting this at all, as the one photo I found of a bottle of vintage Creme Yvette led me to expect a very similar purple color to that of the Creme de Violette (www.flickr.com/photos/donbert/877512124/).  Creme de Violette contains coloring, while Yvette does not, and it is possible that the original Yvette did.  This may explain the color difference but at this point I don’t have any definitive information on the topic.

The taste of the Creme Yvette is much more complex than the Creme de Violette.  The berries and orange are very present, along with a strong suggestion of vanilla.  The floral notes are more subdued, creating a contrast with the Creme de Violette where the floral notes dominate and there is little else to distract from them.  Creme Yvette may even have more in common, in my opinion, with Parfait Amour, which could be described as Creme Yvette on steroids but with the violet removed.

For our first comparison cocktail, we went with the Blue Moon.  This is a favorite of mine, both in its common lemon juice bearing version and the older, quite dry, vermouth version.

Blue Moon

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Crème de Violette

The first thing we noticed was the big color difference.  Since we had all become pretty used to the steely purple/grey color of the Creme de Violette Blue Moon, the hot pink Creme Yvette version was disconcerting to say the least.  It probably affected my evaluation of the taste of the drink as well.  The Creme Yvette variation seemed sweeter, almost cloying, and not as well suited to the Blue Moon.  Possibly it is only an attachment to the familiar that made this shift seem so jarring, and I plan to give it another shot in the future.

The next drink we tried was the Lavender Lady:

(recipe to follow)

This drink, if I am remembering it correctly now, was better suited to the Creme Yvette.  None of us had tried it before either, so that may have given us some objectivity in the evaluation that was lacking with the Blue Moon.

Overall, Creme Yvette was not the revelation any of us were expecting, but it was quite interesting.  I think our expectations may have been too high for any liqueur to live up to.  The good news is that it continues to grow on me and I plan to keep trying it in a variety of drinks and, hopefully, reporting on it here.  Stay tuned.

Mar 10

Cedar Fever

Bill Norris, head drinkman at Fino Austin, was generous enough to share the recipe for his creation the Cedar Fever in a comment on an earlier Souse Report post. Tonight I thought I would give it a whirl at home. I’m low on Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, with maybe three ounces left in the bottle, so I needed to make this count. And it was totally worth it.

This cocktail has a lovely peach color and tastes mildly sweet with definite peach and grapefruit flavors coming from the St. Germain. The Zirbenz contributes pine flavor, of course, but does more to the aroma than the taste… make sure to sniff when you drink this one. I don’t know if it is the lighting at Fino or my lack of observation skills, but I’ve never noticed the Peychaud’s floating on top like a swirl of red oil on water…very cool.

The Zirbenz is a pretty tough ingredient to work with (in my opinion) and I have been a bit nervous about using it at home. The Cedar Fever combines it with the slight sweetness of the old tom gin, the definitely sweet, citrus goodness of the St. Germain, and the complex bitters to make something that is way more than the sum of its parts. It makes me want to try to find other cocktail friends for the Zirbenz to play with.

Cedar Fever

  • 2 oz. Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s)
  • 1/2 oz. St. Germain
  • 1/2 oz. Zirbenz Stone Pine
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Combine all ingredients except for the bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled. Layer two dashes Peychaud’s on top of the cocktail and garnish with flamed lemon peel.

Mar 10

Psst… Creme Yvette

Years of planning.  Research.  Coordination.  Technical hurdles overcome.  Patience.  Impatience.  Close calls.  Near misses.  Adventure.  Pirates.  And finally, now, the culmination of one of the greatest covert operations ever carried out by Souse Report operatives.

Through many trials, the courier known only as “Codename Brownshorts” has at last delivered the secret formula to Souse Report HQ.  His journey was long and fraught with peril.  The unspeakable dangers he faced, the hideous acts of betrayal and perversion he was forced to commit: these are too terrible to recount here.  Let us say instead that he faced these challenges and overcame them, discharging his duty despite losing a leg and, somehow, gaining a testicle.

And now it is here, and the true work begins.  The Souse Report staff must now go into seclusion to perform a thorough evaluation of this fantastic substance.  Stay tuned, however, as additional reports will follow within the next 72 hours, issued from our Undisclosed Location.


Mar 10

The Black Hawk

Black Hawk + Sloe GinTonight I was looking for something new to try with my much-loved Plymouth Sloe Gin and came across the Black Hawk on cocktaildb.com.  I made two, the second time around I tweaked it with the addition of some grapefruit bitters which seemed to help cut the perception of sweetness and bring out the citrus action in the Sloe Gin.  I would definitely recommend trying it that way, but here is the original recipe:

1 1/2 oz. Rye Whisky (Rittenhouse 100 proof)
1 1/2 oz Sloe Gin (Plymouth)

Stir oh so gently with lots of ice and strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with a cherry.

Simple, right?  And very good.  Sweet and plummy but balanced out by the spicy rye.  My elaboration: grapefruit bitters (Bittermens/Bitter Truth, 2 dashes).  Even more tasty, if less simple.

There seem to be a lot of different variations on this recipe out there, one of which includes lemon and sugar in the mix.  Maybe another time.

Mar 10

St. Germain Dinner at Fino Austin

Photos courtesy of John M. P. Knox.  Check out his other photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmpk/!

On Wednesday evening Tipsy Pisst and I attended a chef’s table dinner at Fino Restaurant here in Austin.  As I am sort of scared of strangers I was a bit leery of sitting at a big table with a bunch of people I didn’t know and being expected to make conversation.  However, part way through the first of Bill Norris’s excellent cocktails this ceased to be a problem as I realized we were surrounded by cocktail and food geeks and liquor industry folks and that the expected conversation would mostly be on topics that I have no trouble babbling incessantly about.

The theme for the evening was St. Germain liqueur, a fairly recent addition to the spirits universe from Cooper Spirits which seems to be everywhere these days.  It is also pretty much Tipsy’s favorite libation ingredient.  We were lucky to have Bryan Townsend, Texas state sales manager for St. Germain, at the table, so we got to hear a lot about this amazing stuff and the company that is producing it.  You can head over to their website for details on this unusual liqueur’s history and production, but in brief:  St Germain is a cordial made primarily from elderflower.  It is only 40 proof and has a very delicate flavor (and is quite sweet) that hints at apricot, pear and something undefinable.  Once a year little old men on bicycles in a small area of France ride around and harvest elderflower blossoms which are used to produce that year’s batch of St. Germain.  It really is pretty amazing, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you should.

The first drink of the evening was the Girasol, a cocktail invented at Nopa restaurant in San Francisco and adapted by Bill Norris for Fino (and for our pleasure).  It was served over ice in a collins glass with a St Germain branded metal spoon/straw (which we got to take home, sweet!) and a twist of lemon peel knotted around the straw.  It was very refreshing…light and floral with citrus and quite a strong cardamom component from the Sunshine Bitters (another Nopa invention, made in-house at Fino).  I managed to dig up a recipe online at chow.com:

2 parts amontillado sherry
1 part St-Germain elderflower liqueur
3 dashes Sunshine Bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish

Stir together sherry, elderflower liqueur, and bitters over ice and strain into a sherry glass. Garnish with lemon twist and serve.

The Fino version differed in how it was served (over ice as opposed to strained) as well as perhaps in the choice of sherry, which was described as fino sherry on the menu.

This drink was paired with some snacks, including some house-made potato chips and dip which I don’t recall the details of, except that they were tasty.  At one point we were served some of Fino’s life-changing anchovy stuffed fried olives, one of my very favorite foods on the whole damn earth.  Eat them now.

Next up, the Paloma Flower (I believe this is a Bill Norris original) a flip style drink made with Siembra Azul Reposado tequila, grapefruit, St. Germain, Egg White and house-made grapefruit bitters.  My memory of this drink is somewhat sketchy, but I do recall that it paired well with the scallops (which were lovely) and that the reposado tequila added a very nice complexity to the drink.  The grapefruit bitters (which I previously misidentified as Bitter Truth) went very well here, helping to bring the grapefruit juice and St. Germain together in one big happy.

The second course was an incredible white gazpacho, apparently an adaptation of a very old Spanish recipe.  Bread, olive oil, a bit of garlic…simple and wonderful.  It was garnished with green grapes and marcona almonds and went very well with this round’s cocktail: the Cedar Fever.

The Cedar Fever has been a constant on Fino’s cocktail menu for a while now and is unusual, challenging, and very tasty. Old Tom Gin (Hayman’s), St. Germain, Zirbenz Stone Pine, and Peychaud’s bitters… this drink should be a giant mess but isn’t, instead it ends up tasting like my favorite camping trips.  Or at least my memory of them, probably not the reality.  Anyway, it is very good and I highly recommend trying it.  If I can get a recipe sometime I will definitely post it here.

Third course, the cocktail was the Scotch Surprise.  Tipsy Pisst and I both agreed this was the stand out cocktail of the evening.  We liked it so much we both ordered it the next night when we ended up at Fino again for a friend’s birthday celebration (yes, I know, we have a problem).  Dewar’s, St. Germain, Grenadine (Fino house-made), lemon, and Bitter Truth mole bitters.  This concoction was complicated but easy to enjoy with a bit of smoke, flowers and all sorts of citrus without making anyone pucker.  Very, very nice.  It was paired with an incredible pork belly confit with seared foie gras and julienned apples.


The dessert course beverage was simple, just chilled St. Germain, which is very nice on its own.  Sipped, it reminded me (and not only me) of a Sauternes, so it would probably go well with that foie gras we had just finished.  As it was, we had to drink it with some fantastic cupcakes created by Jenny Chen (MisoHungry) in a fit of St. Germain inspired culinary artistry.  You can read more about her Tipsy Ispahan Cupcakes here, in her words they are “Amaretto cake, brushed with rose water, filled with Lychees and Raspberries, topped with St. Germain Buttercream”.  They were great, and we got to take a couple extra home for emergencies.

All in all a very tasty, tipsy and informative evening.  One great thing about the Chef’s table at Fino (this was our first time) was having the likes of Bill Norris (the drinkmaster at Fino) and Jason Donoho (the executive chef) on hand and willing to expound upon their creations, or even just chat about food, drink, and sundry related topics.  We will definitely be back.

Thanks again to Fino, St. Germain, MisoHungry for the cupcakes, and John Knox for the awesome photography.  Check out the rest of his set from this dinner.

Feb 10

The Cavity Search

How does this cocktail make you feel?

You know when you are wandering, bleary-eyed, down a back alley in some godforsaken mid-sized industrial town, trying desperately to remember where you left your car when all of a sudden you feel that terrible urgency in your stomach that presages a bout of nasty projectile vomiting?  You drop to your knees and, one hand braced against the filthy, greasy side of a battered dumpster, you prepare to retch up the thin, burning liquid that is all that you have left to give and you ask yourself, “Why God, why?” as your diaphragm spasms and drool hangs from your lip like a strand of pure liquid despair.  At that exact moment you hear a furtive scrambling in the shadows and look to the side, barely able to turn your head, and you see two giant, fat raccoons fucking.

They notice you and pause and the male turns to look at you with a creepy preternatural intelligence glowing in his eyes.  There is a pause, all is quiet, your stomach clenches but seems to be waiting for something when the raccoon unexpectedly opens his mouth and asks “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have a copy of Kierkegaard’s ‘Fear and Trembling’ on you, would you?”

Hope.  That’s what this cocktail feels like.  Pure hope.

The Cavity Search
A cocktail created in honor of Senor Amor’s recent humiliating and debilitating sinus surgery.

  • 1 oz. Gin (Plymouth)
  • 1 oz. Green Chartreuse
  • 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Bar Syrup

Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass rinsed with absinthe.  Garnish with a maraschino cherry.